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Seized arms shipment believed to be Indonesian.

Byline: Gilbert Felongco, Correspondent

Manila: A mysterious shipment of firearms that recently landed and was seized by Philippine authorities may have originated from Indonesia, a local official of the Bureau of Customs said.

The official, who requested anonymity, said based on the type and make of firearms seized from the vessel M/V Captain Ufuk last Thursday and the circumstances, there are strong indications that the shipment was from Indonesia.

On Thursday, customs operatives, assisted by the Philippine National Police and military intelligence service seized a Panamanian-registered ship and its cargo consisting of 15 crates of assault rifles in Mariveles, northeast Bataan, west of Manila.

According to Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales, the assault rifles have been identified as Senapan Serbu 1 or SS1-V1, a type of firearm manufactured in Indonesia by the firm PT Pindad and made under licence from Belgium's Fabrique National.

Fifty brand new pieces of the firearms as well as other accessories like bayonets were among those seized from the shipment.

Earlier reports had said that the assault rifles were Galils manufactured by the Israel Military Industries. However, this was dismissed by the authorities.

According to the online reference Wikipedia, the SS1-V1 is used by the Indonesian military as its standard assault rifle. Versions of the weapon have also been shipped to Cambodia and Nigeria, among others.

In the Philippines, such firearms are difficult to find and expensive to maintain due to their high cost and difficulty in sourcing parts. Police Chief Joey Yunchongco of Customs Police Division was quoted in reports as saying that the calibre 5.56 millimetre weapon's price can range anywhere from 150,000 pesos ($3,125) to 200,000 pesos ($4,166) a piece depending on the version. Similar weapons can be purchased in the country at less than price.

This led officials to theorise that the firearms were not intended to be sold in the Philippines.

Morales said the shipment was illegal because it did not have the necessary import or transit documents. Earlier, Morales said that the shipment was a case of gun smuggling as vessels carrying such cargo are required to notify the nearest port within 24 hours.

Morales said that based on the documents provided by the Georgian crew of the vessel, the MV Captain Ufuk travelled from Turkey and Indonesia before being intercepted by authorities at the Port of Mariveles.

The vessel was originally bound for the nearby Port of Batangas. The skipper of the vessel, Bruce Jones, is reported to have gone missing after the ship was seized.



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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Aug 23, 2009
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